The future of driverless vehicles won’t just be electric—but shared. That’s the vision of Cruise, at least, which has now unveiled its new car: dubbed the Origin.
The company, a subsidiary of General Motors, predicts motorists of the future won’t just desire consumer vehicles like Tesla’s Model series or the hulking Cybertruck. Instead, it is betting on the rise of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft and is building a car with that in mind.
“We didn’t just want to improve on the car. We wanted to reimagine transportation as if the car never existed,” CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a blog this week.
“So we removed the engine. We removed the driver who, more often than not, is tired… and rushed. We removed the equipment that’s there to support the driver, including the steering wheel, pedals, rearview mirrors, windshield wipers, and cramped seats.
“What we came up with isn’t a car that you buy. It’s an experience that you share. It’s self-driven.”
The design was revealed to media this week during an event in San Francisco, with Cruise showing off a white-black-orange color scheme and a large interior with room for six humans. Based on the symmetrical aesthetic, there is not an obvious front or back to the car.
And while it shuns much of the traditional car-stuff, it is packed with technology—including sensors to track its surroundings and internal components that can be updated remotely.
“This vehicle is engineered to last a million miles and all the interior components are replaceable. The computer is replaceable, the sensors are replaceable. And what that does is it drives the cost per mile down way lower than you could ever reach if you took a regular car and tried to retrofit it,” co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) Kyle Vogt told The Verge this week.
According to Ammann, the Origin will save consumers money compared to typical cars, which require costs like parking fees, breakdown coverage while also depreciating in value.
It will still have four wheels and safety belts, with those seats facing each other if that’s your thing. A view of the inside can be seen in a clip uploaded to Twitter by the company yesterday:
For now, there are promises and plans, but questions remain. It’s unclear what type of pricing structure Cruise is planning to attach to the vehicle, which is being tested in San Francisco after the firm missed its goal of launching the self-driving service last year.
Reuters reported back in 2018 that Cruise’s “robot taxi service” was facing technical challenges and delays, with cars allegedly struggling to judge if objects on roads were moving or still.
Cruise has been contacted for comment.
After being bought by General Motors in 2016, Cruise has attracted investment from SoftBank ($2.25 billion) and Honda ($2.75 billion). The unit is currently valued at about $19 billion.
Cost and safety concerns aside, Cruise may still face opposition from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over how the Origin meets legal requirements for road-use. Wired reported that discussions between Ammann and the agency are already in progress.
Cruise said on Tuesday the new vehicle is currently “production ready” but doesn’t yet meet federal regulations. Until then it can only be used in closed environments, TechCrunch reported. So, unlike the eye-grabbing Cybertruck, don’t expect to see it on the streets just yet.
The company is not alone in its belief that the future of transportation is shared. Electric supercar maker Mate Rimac outlined a similar vision during an interview with Newsweek last year.
“Vehicle design is definitely going to change completely,” Rimac said at the time. “When you don’t have ownership of the car and you don’t have operation of the car, you don’t have a person driving the car, it’s going to look completely different. Nobody really knows what it will be like.
“Some people are working on things that look like little trains on rubber wheels, if that’s the right direction I am not really sure. I have some ideas of my own which I won’t share now.”
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